What might have happened to Halo if 343 Industries had not been formed?
Borderlands developer Gearbox Software was originally considered to create Halo 4. In this month’s episode of IGN Unfiltered, Ryan McCaffrey sat down with Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, and discussed the history (and alternate histories) of the development of Halo 4, among many other topics.
After Halo’s original development studio, Bungie, split with Microsoft, there was a discussion at Xbox about what to do with the Halo franchise. While the ending of Halo 3 was ambiguous enough to serve as a finale for the series, Halo also took place in an incredibly well-realized universe, one which was rich enough to serve as the setting for many more games, should Microsoft find the right studio to make them.
Harboring a great love for Halo, Ross, who was running all internal and external Xbox game publishing at the time, felt it was “blasphemy” to end the Halo franchise or hand over control to an external studio. She pitched her take on Halo’s future to Shane Kim, then Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft Game Studios, and was given the “keys to the franchise” to pursue her creative vision for the series.
An internal team at Microsoft was soon formed to assume development of Halo under Ross, named 343 Industries after fan-favorite Halo character, 343 Guilty Spark. 343 Industries went on to create Halo 4 and 5, and is currently working on Halo Infinite but, at the time, other options were being discussed.
What else might have taken place, had 343 Industries not been founded?
One possibility was ending the Halo franchise outright. The fate of Spartan 117 is relatively unclear at the end of Halo 3, and it could have served as an end-point for the series, according to Ross. With Bungie moving on to work on Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST, which were published by Microsoft, the Halo franchise wouldn’t have come to an abrupt end, but Halo 3 could have been the end of Master Chief’s story.
Another possibility was that Microsoft would hand the reins of the franchise over to an external studio for development, at least for one or two more games. The frontrunner Microsoft had in mind at the time was Gearbox Software, the studio responsible for the PC port of Halo: Combat Evolved and the same team that went on to create the popular Borderlands franchise.
For more insider interviews with the best, brightest, most fascinating minds in the games industry, be sure to check out the rest of the IGN Unfiltered catalog, which includes talks with Insomniac Founder and CEO Ted Price, Firewatch and Darksiders 3 voice actress Cissy Jones, and many more.